In the previous two weeks we have examined four arguments against drinking. They have involved: 1) the bitter fruits of alcohol, 2) abstaining from fellowshipping that which causes abundant miseries, 3) the effects of alcohol, and 4) guarding one's influence. Interspersed with these categories have been the Scriptures and the oft-repeated question, "WHY DO IT?"
The reason more Scriptures have not been cited is that proponents of drinking within the church frequently point out that they agree with the Bible--they too condemn drunkenness; they only defend light or moderate drinking. It is for exactly that reason that the above question has been asked. What authority is there to drink, period? What purpose does it serve? What good does it accomplish? Since the answer is, "Nothing," a Christian ought to remove himself as far away from alcoholic beverages as possible.
The above statement was made in a sermon by a social drinker in a congregation in southeast Kansas about twenty years ago. When the local preacher objected, the elders upheld the man who made the statement (a generous giver) and fired the preacher!!
Such a statement blasphemes our Lord and shows to what desperate lengths some will go to justify their sins. The passage of Scripture usually cited to support this erroneous notion is John 2:1-11, in which Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast. Many conclude (along with Ann Landers) that "wine is wine" (meaning that since wine is fermented today, it was also fermented back then). In fact, some of our commentators have come to the same conclusion. Such an assertion can only be made in ignorance (believe me, that was the kindest way I could think of to say it; the other choices sounded much worse).
The fact is that a number of words are translated wine in the Bible. Some refer specifically to the fruit of the vine, some obviously refer to the fermented state, and some are just generic words (such as oinos), in which the context must decide the intoxicating power of the beverage. Would Jesus turn water into a dangerously potent brew after the guests had already sated themselves? "Man, I got bombed last week in Cana of Galilee, and I owe it all to a man called Jesus." Would Jesus violate every principle He taught about self-control to help these people get drunk? How absurd! "But it was described as the best wine." Such could hardly refer to the highest potency (which some affirm) since that would not be immediately known; rather, the flavor is being complemented.
Every Christian should be in possession of two facts: 1) Ancient civilizations knew at least four ways to keep wine from fermenting. Books that deal with this subject are The Bible, The Saint, and The Liquor Industry by Jim McGuiggan, The Bible and "Social" Drinking by W. D. Jeffcoat, and Bible Wines by William Patton; and 2) The alcoholic content in today's wines is much higher than occurs by natural fermentation. Any wine with an alcohol level higher than 12% has been fortified to make it stronger.
Paul told Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake." But why did Paul have to command him to do so? For some reason, Timothy had made it a habit not to drink wine. Didn't he like its taste? Was he trying to avoid the charge of being a drunkard? After all, Jesus had drunk wine and was accused of such (though untrue). Was it just safer to avoid intoxication by drinking something else? No matter what the answer, Paul's admonition to drink wine revolved around relief for his stomach; it in no wise authorizes social drinking for recreational purposes today.
"But my doctor told me it would help my heart." Some do, but they ought not. Rod Rutherford, in Major Lessons from the Major Prophets (the third POWER Lectureship book) writes: "However, a panel of doctors including Dr. William P. Castelli of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, state that the risk of drinking alcohol is too great to ever justify recommending it to anyone" (440). Brother Rutherford goes on to say that the ingredient beneficial to the heart (resveratrol) is more abundant in grape juice than in fermented wine. Grape juice is also somewhat less addictive.
Consider Vine on Eph. 5:18 and the verb methusko : It "signifies to make drunk, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb, marking the process of the state expressed in No. 1), to become intoxicated" (Vine 341, Rutherford in Major Lessons of the Major Prophets 441). Becoming drunk is a process: if it is never begun; it can never be completed.
If, after all that has been presented, a person insists upon drinking; then it is obvious that his mind was made up from the beginning--and why. After Samuel gave numerous reasons for the nation of Israel not to have a king, they said, "Nay, but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations..." (1 Samuel 8:10-20). Today, people consider what the Bible teaches and reject it, saying, "No but we will have musical instruments; we will be homosexuals; we will remain married; we will drink." "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Pr. 14:12).
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "Arguments For Drinking (9/24/95)."